Between the Lines: Literary Transnationalism and African American Poetics

By Monique-Adelle Callahan | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Signs of Blood: Redemption Songs
and “American” Poetry beyond
Borders

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord,
and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the
Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage and I will
redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great
judgments
.

—King James Bible, Exodus 6:6

It returns us to Eliot’s pronouncement, that a culture cannot
exist without a religion, and to other pronouncements
irradiating that idea, that an epic poetry cannot exist
without a religion. It is the beginning of the poetry of the
New World. And the language used is, like the religion, that
of the conqueror of the God. But the slave had wrested God
from his captor
.

—Derek Walcott, “The Muse of History” (1996)

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit
.
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of The Almighty
.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly
.
Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs
.

—Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

-59-

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